Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers

1st Edition

By Maria Nikolajeva


232 pages

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This book considers one of the most controversial aspects of children’s and young adult literature: its use as an instrument of power. Children in contemporary Western society are oppressed and powerless, yet they are allowed, in fiction written by adults for the enlightenment and enjoyment of children, to become strong, brave, rich, powerful, and independent -- on certain conditions and for a limited time. Though the best children’s literature offers readers the potential to challenge the authority of adults, many authors use artistic means such as the narrative voice and the subject position to manipulate the child reader. Looking at key works from the eighteenth century to the present, Nikolajeva explores topics such as genre, gender, crossvocalization, species, and picturebook images. Contemporary power theories including social and cultural studies, carnival theory, feminism, postcolonial and queer studies, and narratology are also considered, in order to demonstrate how a balance is maintained between the two opposite inherent goals of children’s literature: to empower and to educate the child.


"This is a significant, provocative study of children's textual 'oppression.'" Recommended."


"Essential reading for anyone who is or would be a scholar of children's literature."

--Children's Literature Association Quarterly

Table of Contents

Series Editor’s Foreword Acknowledgments Introduction: Why Does Pippi Sleep with Her Feet on the Pillow? 1: Harry Potter and the Secrets of Children’s Literature 2: Othering the Sense: Language and (Mis)communication 3: Othering the Genre: Fantasy and Realism 4: Othering the Child: George MacDonald’s Fairy Tales 5: Othering the Future: Stereotypes of Dystopia 6: Othering the Setting: Orientalism and Robinsonade 7: Othering Gender: New Masculinities, New Femininities 8: Othering Voice: Crossvocalization and Performance 9: Othering Ideology: Literature in Society’s Service 10: Othering the Species: The (Ab)use of Animals 11: Othering the Visual: Power Structures in Picturebooks 12: Othering the Reader: Identification Fallacy Conclusion: The Adult’s Self-Denial Bibliography Index

About the Author

Maria Nikolajeva is a Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge, UK. She is the recipient of the international Grimm Award for lifetime achievements in children’s literature research.

About the Series

Children's Literature and Culture

Founding Editor and Series Editor 1994-2011: Jack Zipes

Series Editor, 2011-2018: Philip Nel


Founded by Jack Zipes in 1994, Children's Literature and Culture is the longest-running series devoted to the study of children’s literature and culture from a national and international perspective. Dedicated to promoting original research in children’s literature and children’s culture, in 2011 the series expanded its focus to include childhood studies, and it seeks to explore the legal, historical, and philosophical conditions of different childhoods. An advocate for scholarship from around the globe, the series recognizes innovation and encourages interdisciplinarity. Children's Literature and Culture offers cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections considering topics such as gender, race, picturebooks, childhood, nation, religion, technology, and many others. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature